Tuesday, June 30, 2015


Tom Brower gives his account of his assault as the news spreads nationally

by Larry Geller

Well, now we have two differing accounts of what took place in Kakaako when Rep. Tom Brower was assaulted Monday evening. The two stories differ completely.

You can compare them. Brower held a press conference today, which is reported by AP and carried by ABC in Hawaii Lawmaker Assaulted at Homeless Camp (ABC News, 6/30/2015). The earlier report by two teenage boys was State Rep. Tom Brower injured in altercation at Kakaako homeless camp (Hawaii News Now, 6/30/2015).

Now that the AP has filed a report, the story will be carried by many more news outlets. So far, it has been carried by the Minneapolis StarTribune, the Houston Chronicle, and Yahoo News. Oops…as I type this Google reports that it has appeared in a flock of media outlets from Calgary, Alberta, Canada, to West Point, to Chicago,  to Washington, DC. The New York Daily News updated its earlier story.

In addition to the current incident, AP the story briefly recaps Brower’s adventures with his sledgehammer:

Brower, 50, has had encounters with homeless people before.

In 2013, he used a sledgehammer to smash about 30 shopping carts used by homeless people to carry belongings in Waikiki. Brower has said he returned carts marked with a store's logo.

Brower later said he would no longer use a sledgehammer, but added his main purpose was to raise awareness of homeless issues. He said his actions were not an attack on the homeless.

"I'm trying to attack the issue of cleanliness, but some people interpreted it as an attack on the homeless," he told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser at the time.

The Huffington Post updated its earlier story this afternoon. If readers outside of Hawaii were not aware of the growing crisis in Hawaii and its failure to implement any but punitive measures, they’re being educated:

Brower's self-proclaimed "tough guy" approach to Honolulu's homelessness problem was criticized in 2013 when he publicly toured Honolulu streets with a sledgehammer, using it to destroy any shopping carts that didn't have a store's logo on them.

"If I see shopping carts that I can't identify," he told the Honolulu Star-Advertiser at the time, "I will destroy them so they can't be pushed on the streets."

Homelessness is currently reaching a crisis point in Hawaii. In the past year, the number of chronically homeless individuals has risen 24 percent. Both the state and the city of Honolulu have adopted a number of measures to address the issue, including a controversial "sit-lie" ban and periodic homeless sweeps.

[Huffington Post, Hawaii Lawmaker Who Smashed Homeless People's Shopping Carts Beaten Up By Group Of Homeless: Report, 6/30/2015]

A Star-Advertiser story accessible on the web features a close-up of Brower, clearly showing his injuries. See Brower gives his account of assault in Kakaako (Star-Advertiser, 6/30/2015).

These stories reveal a far different picture of Hawaii than potential visitors usually see. Will there be more interactions between Brower and Honolulu’s homeless residents that end up in the national spotlight?

If there is any upside to this, perhaps the negative publicity will spur lawmakers at the state and city level to get busy implementing an evidence-based Housing First solution, and to take meaningful action to create truly affordable housing so that the tide of houselessness might be turned through peaceful means.


Bowers informs the press he is deciding whether to press charges against the two homeless children that attacked him after they repeatedly told him to stop videoing them around the Children's Discovery Center....

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